Jurgen Klopp delivers verdict on top-four chances after Stoke draw
Jurgen Klopp must have known it was going to be one of those days from the moment Mo Salah missed the kind of chance he’s been taking with his eyes closed.
When Liverpool’s Egyptian forward was sent clear by skipper Jordan Henderson with just five minutes on the clock, it seemed a mere formality that Anfield would be rising as one to celebrate magic Mo’s 44th goal of the season.
Salah took away the one obstacle in his way by putting Stoke keeper Jack Butland on his backside with a deft shimmy of his hips.
But instead of finding the corner of the net with the kind of clipped finish that has become a devastating part of his tradecraft , he sent his shot bouncing six inches wide.
It was a stop-the-clocks moment. The man who had scored in 14 of his previous 16 games had blown what would be the best chance of the game.
So Salah’s wait to claim his 32nd Premier League goal of the season – and with it the goalscoring record he currently holds alongside Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez – goes on.
And a Liverpool team standing on the brink of reaching the Champions League Final, still need three points from games against Chelsea and Brighton to finish in the top four.
Klopp remained philosophical. “I will take the point,” he said. “It could prove to be very important.
“It could have been better and it could have been worse, but it’s a point we didn’t have and it means we need another three to finish in the top four.
“If football is fair, then we will get those three points.”
Liverpool have designs on challenging for the title next season.
But either side of demolishing Roma in Europe, they have drawn with West Brom and Stoke.
Even if Stoke win their final two games against Crystal Palace and Swansea, they could still go down.
The Potters’ wait for their first top-flight win at Anfield goes on. In fact, the last time they claimed the points on Liverpool soil was back in 1959 in the old second division, some nine months before a certain Bill Shankly arrived on Merseyside.
But Paul Lambert kept up his outstanding record of never losing a game at Anfield as manager.
The Scot has now won three and drawn three – and he was bursting with pride from the way his team fought for their Premier League lives.
“It is a brilliant result against a team that has been on fire,” said Lambert.
“To come here and play the way we did was excelent.
“We are still in with a fight but we have a chance. But that’s all we have wanted – a chance.
“If we had played like that more often this season we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in.”
Klopp made five changes to the team that did him proud in the Champions League – and the drop in quality was clear.
Liverpool had 20 efforts on goal – the most they have managed without scoring for four years. Just two of them were on target.
Stoke deserved what good fortune they had. Erik Pieters didn’t let Salah escape him again, while Kurt Zouma was just as uncompromising.
Trent Alexander-Arnold shot wastefully straight at Butland just after Salah’s eye-popping miss.
And on another day, referee Andre Marriner would have given a penalty when Gini Wijnaldum’s cross in the dying minutes struck the arm of Pieters.
“If we get the penalty then it would have been the same game but a different result,” said Klopp.
But less than a minute after Pieters had been given the benefit of referee Marriner’s doubt, the Potters came within a fraction of claiming three precious points.
Mame Diouf hooked a shot across the face of Loris Karius’ goal and City skipper Ryan Shawcross just couldn’t stretch himself enough at the far post to nudge the ball home.
Where will Liverpool finish?
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